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IJ Combined Fleet and
US Pacific Fleet Commanders

Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto (HQ at Tokyo)
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz (HQ at Pearl Harbor)

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was fought 25–27 October 1942 in the waters northwest of the Santa Cruz Islands by forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy's (IJN) Combined Fleet and the United States Navy's (USN) Pacific Fleet. The battle resulted from a major Japanese offensive with the goal to drive the US forces from Guadalcanal.

The battle can be viewed as a tactical Japanese victory as they sank the American aircraft carrier USS Hornet and badly damaged another, USS Enterprise, while suffering heavy damage in return to carriers Shōkaku and Zuihō. In strategic terms, however, it was ultimately a victory for the United States, as the Japanese failed in their objective to destroy American forces on and around Guadalcanal and suffered significant losses of experienced air crew.

Because the Japanese had the tactical initiative, their forces are listed first.

Forces deployed[]

Empire of Japan Japanese forces

Combat ships: 2 fleet carriers, 2 light carriers, 4 old battleships, 10 cruisers, 25 destroyers
Aircraft: 199

American forces

Combat ships: 2 fleet carriers, 1 fast battleship, 5 cruisers, 14 destroyers
Aircraft: 136

Losses

Ships: IJN – none, USN – 1 fleet carrier, 1 destroyer
Aircraft: IJN – 99, USN – 81

Japanese order of battle[]

Advance force[]

Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondo

Heavy cruiser Atago

Light carrier Jun'yō

Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo

Main body (Vice Admiral Kondo in Atago)
Cruiser Division 4
2 heavy cruisers: Atago, Takao
Cruiser Division 5 (Rear Admiral Sentaro Omori in Myoko)
2 heavy cruisers: Myoko, Maya
Destroyer Squadron 2 (Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka in Isuzu)
1 light cruiser: Isuzu
6 destroyers: Makinami, Kawakaze, Suzukaze, Naganami, Takanami
Carrier group (Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta in Jun'yō)
Carrier Division 2
1 light carrier: Jun'yō
20 Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters (Lt. Yoshio Shiga)
18 Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers (Lt. Masao Yamaguchi†)
7 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers (Lt. Yoshiaki Irikiin†)
Screen
2 destroyers: Kuroshio, Hayashio
Support group (Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita in Kongo)
Battleship Division 3
2 old battleships: Kongo, Haruna
Screen
2 destroyers: Oyashio, Kagerō

Carrier striking force[]

Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo

Fleet carrier Zuikaku

Destroyer Yukikaze

Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo

Carrier group (Vice Admiral Nagumo)
2 fleet carriers
Shōkaku
22 Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters (Lt. Hideki Shingō)
21 Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers (Lt. Cmdr. Mamoru Seki†)
24 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers (Lt. Cmdr. Shigeharu Murata†)
Zuikaku
21 Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters (Lt. Ayao Shirane)
24 Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers (Lt. Sadamu Takahashi)
20 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers (Lt. Shigeichiro Imajuku†)
1 light carrier
Zuihō
19 Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters (Lt. Masao Satō)
6 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers (Lt(jg). Ichiro Tanaka)
Screen
1 heavy cruiser: Kumano
8 destroyers: Hatsukaze, Yukikaze, Maikaze, Hamakaze, Amatsukaze, Tokitsukaze, Arashi, Teruzuki

Vanguard group[]

Hiroaki Abe

(Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe in Hiei)

Battleship division
2 old battleships: Hiei, Kirishima
Cruiser Division 7 (Rear Admiral Shoji Nishimura)
1 heavy cruiser: Suzuya
Cruiser Division 8 (Rear Admiral Chūichi Hara in Tone)
2 heavy cruisers: Tone, Chikuma
Destroyer Squadron 10 (Rear Admiral Susumu Kimura)
1 light cruiser: Nagara
7 destroyers: Makigumo, Akigumo, Urakaze, Kazagumo, Yūgumo, Tanikaze, Isokaze

Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighter

Aichi D3A "Val" dive bomber

Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bomber

American order of battle[]

Task Force 61[]

Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid

Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter

Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber

Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber

Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid

Task Force 16[]

Rear Admiral Kinkaid in Enterprise

Carrier

Screen

  • Cruiser Division 4 (Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale)
  • Destroyer Squadron 5 (Capt. Charles L. Cecil)

Task Force 17[]

Rear Admiral George D. Murray in Hornet

Carrier

Screen

Notes[]

References[]

  • Hammel, Eric (1999). Carrier Strike: The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942. Pacifica, California: Pacifica Press. ISBN 0-9355-5337-1. 
  • Lundstrom, John B. (2005). The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942 (New ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-472-8. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (1948). The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 – February 1943: Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Co.. ISBN 0-7858-1306-3. 

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